TINASHE KAIRIZA AN unnamed Israeli investment outfit is on the cusp of setting up a multi-million dollar diamond cutting and polishing plant in the capital nearly two decades after the southern African country discovered a lucrative treasure of gems, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic malaise in 2008, vast diamond reserves were unearthed in Chiadzwa, Manicaland which at the time was projected to meet 25% of global demand.
Regulatory approvals for the envisaged value addition plant, which is expected to spin additional jobs in the diamond industry, have been approved by authorities.
Zimbabwe Consul and Head of Mission in Israel Ronny Levy Musan, who could not disclose the name of the investment outfit due to the sensitivity of the negotiations, this week said the construction of the beneficiation plant will be “finalised in the coming months” while progress is underway to ship machinery that will support the plant into the country. Ever since Musan’s appointment by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2020, Zimbabwe has been selling some of its diamonds to Israel, as Harare strives to establish fully fledged diplomatic ties with Tel-Aviv.
“Zimbabwe sells diamonds to Israel through the standard Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) procedure that has been in place for years. In addition, we are promoting construction of an advanced diamond cutting and polishing plant with the help of Israeli technology and knowledge.
“There have been a number of visits by delegations from Israel to promote the plant. Things have their own pace but we believe construction of the plant will be completed in the coming months,” Musan said.
Musan’s disclosures coincide with a visit by the Kimberly Process to Zimbabwe whose mission is to foster transparency and oversight in the industry with the primary objective of stemming the trade in conflict diamonds. Zimbabwe last conducted a Kimberley Process and Certification (KPCS) evaluation in 2012 and the latest visit by the team will, among other issues, focus on the strides the southern African country has made towards mining diamonds in line with international best practice.
With Zimbabwe under the grip of a US embargo which Mnangagwa’s administration has blamed for stifling efforts to revive the fragile economy, Musan added that part of his brief was to unlock strategies of driving economic growth in the midst of sanctions.
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Washington slapped Harare with sanctions in 2003 over allegations of rampant human rights abuse and a systematic collapse in the rule of law.
“We have a lot of professional work in the financial field mainly because of the sanctions but there are definitely ways to put money into the economy of Zimbabwe.
“We are certainly working at the highest levels of Israel’s diplomatic bodies to assist Zimbabwe. In that regard, talks and joint delegation meetings were held. We are also working on promoting diplomacy under sanctions,” Musan said, underscoring that business promotion between the two countries hinged on improving security around Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando did not respond to questions sent to him.
Zimbabwe is eyeing growing its mining sector into a US$12 billion industry by 2023, with diamonds expected to contribute US$1 billion. There has been strong criticism over extraction of diamonds in Chiadzwa as the gems have failed to benefit the local community which is languishing in poverty. Even 10 years after relocation to pave the way for the diamond mining firms, the community has nothing to show as roads, health facilities and schools are in a dilapidated state.
Unlike Botswana, whose economy is also anchored on minerals such as diamonds, alleged looting of diamond revenue was exposed even by the late former President Robert Mugabe who claimed that US$15 billion worth of gems was stolen from Chiadzwa. The allegation was never substantiated.
Apart from diamonds, gold and other minerals are characterised by opaque deals involving the ruling elites and their close family and business acolytes.
A powerful oligarchy has emerged in recent years, which is benefiting from the mineral wealth of the country as the majority of Zimbabweans are wallowing in extreme poverty.